Forks and Copies

This has come up recently. What happens when someone submits a plugin that’s a copy of another?

The tl;dr here is this: Please email us at plugins@wordpress.org if you find someone has slipped an uncredited fork or identical copy of another plugin into the repository.

In general, we spot these before they ever get published. We rejected 10s of plugins a month for being identical copies. That said, we also approve double that for being legitimate forks.

While the GPL and it’s compatible licenses allow for forking, we have an ‘above and beyond’ rule for hosting here, that means your plugin must be a substantial change of the original. We do not allow direct copies of other plugins to be re-listed under somebody else’s name, we allow changed forks.

What does that mean? It’s very simple. You have to add new features, remove features, modernize, fix, clean up, or otherwise make a change to the plugin that differentiates it from the original. In rare cases, a simple clean-up will be accepted, but normally we try to get a hold of the original authors and have the fixes folded in to the original plugin. If you have a fork, we require you to retain all credit and/or copyright information.

That’s all well and good. What happens when we miss one?

Contact us. Email us at plugins@wordpress.org and tell us “Plugin A is a copy of Plugin B.” If both plugins are on the WordPress.org repository, provide links — there are 45k plugins in our repository, no links means it takes us an extra email or three to sort out which plugin you were talking about. Anyone can report this, though we ask you be reasonable and not accusatory. We are real humans who will read your emails. Treat us like that 🙂

We’ll open up both plugins, the current versions and the originals, and run a diff between them to see what’s different. If it’s just renaming plugin functions, we’re going to close the copy. If it’s clearly a full rewrite, with moving functions to namespaces etc, we’re likely to keep both versions open. A full modernized rewrite is a legit fork. We will go back and ask them to put credits and copyright info back in, but rarely more.

If the original plugin is NOT hosted on WordPress.org, then it’s more complicated because we need to see them to compare. This means if you, as a user, see a copy of a premium plugin, you need to ask the original developers to contact us. Why? Well, have you ever tried, as a non-paying customer, to contact some of these folks? It’s an uphill battle. It’s worse when they’re hosted on places which protect their email addresses. That’s great, we totally get why you do that, but we have no way to contact them. Many times we’ve reached out and gotten auto-replies that take weeks to get back to us with a real human.

If you’re the original developer, email us a copy of your plugin (we promise not to steal it) and if you can, explain how you know it’s a copy and not a fork.

But whatever you do, please, please, please, don’t take all this to the forums and post complaints that the forked plugin authors are evil or what have you. That doesn’t make for a happy community. Report things properly. Let us know. We’ll take the angry hit from them for you.

If you’ve written a fork or a copy? Please make sure you’re really making a fork! Just slapping on your name and changing function names isn’t enough of a fork for us to host it here. We don’t want to have 100 plugins that are the same, save the credits. We want to have plugins that do different things.

Edit: All questions about the GPL-100% rule and how it applies to WORDCAMPS needs to be asked of the https://make.wordpress.org/community/ team – All those comments are being deleted for derailing the topic here.

#policy